Imperialis Dreaming

Mon, 21 Apr 2003 02:27:00 PDT
Jamie Vande    Cologne Germany    Zone 8

I see why Jim thought I was being OTT with my F. imperiallis purchase!  US$8.00 per corm!  Ouch!  I typically pay Euro 2-4 per and that is for the typical 4 varieties; Aurora, Lutea, Rubra Maxima and "orange" (which is probably an un-named clone).  I bought a large number on sale, including Kroon Op Kroon, Shlaagswerd, and a third I cannot recall.  Of these cvs, none did well, only the Aurora and Lutea established. Rubra Maxima did 3 years, but dwindled.  All varieties must be hardy, as they have been grown in this area of the world for over 4 centuries, and we have had exteme winters in this time, over and over!

My garden earth is considerably heavier than in the Netherlands, being based on Rhein clay.  I planted my corms in a loosened area with gravel and sand, but otherwise fertile.  A similar treatment as to Eremurus planting (which flourish in this bed), whereby I create a small bed of sand at the bottom of the planting hole and place the corm/root on top, then cover with a gravel-soil mix, to assure good drainage.  Now, this said, one of my best clumps, of Aurora, is at the edge of the pond in a heavy, organic, verging on mud, soil.  It is frequently drowned when the pool overflows after rains, which is common in my area.  It is also baked in the mid-late summer for about 3-6 weeks, with little water.  These extremes do not seem to bother it!  The clump is 5 years old this summer.

Now, so one does not get the wrong impression of the bulb fields in south Holland, they are very wet, but well drained.  Alkaline and sandy loam which is intensely cultivated.  I believe that most growers take advantage of the ample supplies of cow manure, which certainly would create a rich mix.  The sight of colour as far as the eye can see is simply breath-taking!  There are, also, bulb fields in north Holland, in the area north of Haarlem and around Limmen, where the soil is much sandier.  I know that many difficult sorts are cultivated there.

Trying to bring some conclusions from this weeks discussions, it seems that F. imperialis is not difficult, just choosy.  Some cultivars are apparently robuster than others. Drainage seems to be a key element and, perhaps, a dry spell during the heat peak. They seem to profit from fertilisers when in growth.   I always let the stems die down naturally.  Water is not a problem, as long as they do not stand in it, and, from what I see in my garden, they actually profit from lots of water when in growth.

One problem I've noted with other geophytes as well, is beetle larvae, which consume large amounts of tissue, probably leaving corms too weak to recover.  I have noticed this on many Lilium, Tulipa, Narcissus and Allium, but these tend to be robust enough to recover.  Perhaps Frittilaria are simply more prone!

I plan on trying another bed this Autumn, based on the info exchange.  There is a sloped gravel bed on the other side of my pond, planted with a few Iris ensata cvs, Hemerocallis cvs and Acer palmatum cvs.  A few Tulipas grow here, as well.  I'll try six or so F. imperiallis under the Acer, as this leafs out late, well after the Fritts have bloomed.  In 10 months, I'll let you all know!  Can you hang in there?

Ciao für now,        Jamie V.

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